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Thursday, January 05, 2006

Esmonde Explains the Casino

Don Esmonde of the Buffalo News is doing a good job of interpreting this casino mess that we are in. His latest installment doesn't disappoint.

Casino opponents on Tuesday filed a lawsuit to knock this casino nonsense off track. Some of the more ignorant Buffalonians (or Buffalo Wannabees) are calling them obstructionists and wildly claiming that those standing in the way of a casino are simply upset that they are not getting a "piece of the action". I wouldn't believe that people honestly thought this way if I hadn't read it with my own eyes.

anyway, esmonde's article is below, with some emphasis added by me, to highlight his responses to the most prevalent or ignorant criticisms from casino lovers.

(by the way I don't hate casinos, I just think it's basically a doomsday scenario for Buffalo.)

Casino suit tries to save us from ourselves

It is a chance to turn back the clock before it strikes midnight.

It is a way to ward off regret, to avoid yet another "if only" lament, to stop the train before it rolls off the tracks.

It is a move to avoid another addition to the litany of projects and "progress" that have hurt more than helped us.

Look at it that way and you will know why they are doing this.

A lawsuit backed by various local groups, clergy and private citizens was filed Tuesday in federal court to stop the Seneca Nation of Indians from building a casino near the Buffalo waterfront.

"The deal that has been done," attorney Joe Finnerty said, "is not a done deal."

The anti-casino folks are not anti-development. They are simply against something going up that they think, with good reason, will hold us down. The same charitable foundation that pumped $4.5 million into the bioinformatics campus is bankrolling the lawsuit. That's how much the Wendt Foundation, led by attorney and grandfatherly Buffalo icon Bob Kresse, believes a casino will hurt us.

"People want to fight this, but they don't have the money that the state or the Senecas have," said Tom Lunt of the Wendt Foundation. "A private foundation can take that [monetary] risk and give local citizens a chance."

The legal arguments involve acts of Congress and moves by the secretary of the interior. The legal arguments are merely a path to avoid what these folks see as another Buffalo blunder.

The problem with a place where so little development happens is that people get desperate for anything. But if the last half-century taught us anything, it's that not every project is progress.

"A guy I know said he just wants to see something happen," Kresse said. "That's ludicrous. The idea of the city [permanently] turning over land to a sovereign nation for this purpose is preposterous."

If we could turn back the clock and build UB in Buffalo instead of the Amherst marshes, we would.

If we could reverse time and not slice up a good neighborhood with the Kensington Expressway; if we could erase the mistake of cutting off precious waterfront with the Niagara Thruway; if we could not blight downtown with a monolithic mall, we would.

This is about stopping a mistake before, for once, it is too late. The clock is ticking, but the bell has not tolled.

The last thing we need is another hole punched in a nearly dry economic basin. Tony Masiello, Byron Brown and others tout a casino as a job-creating spur to development. Yet this casino will mostly be about local gamblers filling Seneca Nation pockets. The Senecas take most of the profits, Albany gets a decent cut for doing nothing and Buffalo gets relative crumbs - even though local folks will drop most of the money.

Experts say the jobs created at a casino come at equal cost of jobs in the community, because dollars dropped at the casino used to be spent elsewhere. And if a stand-alone casino spurs growth, you sure can't tell it by Niagara Falls, N.Y.

I don't blame the Senecas; they merely took the sweet deal the governor and state lawmakers gave them. Just as I don't blame the folks who are trying to stop it.

This is how it works around here. Politicians fail us, but enlightened citizens use the courts to make it right. It is why we will get a better bridge to Canada. It is why we will get a historic Erie Canal project instead of the bland landscaping originally planned. Without a lawsuit, neither one would have happened. Now folks are suing to stop what looks like another mistake.

It is not the neatest, quickest or cleanest way to get the right thing done. But sometimes politicians leave people little choice.

e-mail: desmonde@buffnews.com


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